D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs Bucks, Game 19
Welp, the 3-15 Milwaukee Bucks… Welp is about all you can say. Empathy between Bucks and Wizards fans should certainly be a two-way street. Unfortunately, Washington is now under a much different ownership situation, while Milwaukee’s owner—who once almost sold his team to Michael Jordan—operates closer to an Abe Pollin-like philosophy of trying to stay relevant despite themselves.
Both franchises are also very familiar with Ernie Grunfeld. For more on Grunfeld’s history from New York to Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., start with this first post of a two-part series: Ernie Grunfeld: Offensive for Over a Decade, How’d He Get So Defensive? (Pt. 1)
Teams: Wizards vs Bucks
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Washington fav’d by 9.5 points
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: On one hand, Milwaukee’s season is going terribly … at least for Herb Kohl, who aims to always field a relevant team. On the other hand, hey, tanking! Maybe the Bucks can sorta/kinda rebuild after all? So what exactly is going on here?
@mitchvomhof: This has been the million-dollar question from day one of the new season. The team’s offseason moves seemed like a plausible attempt at remaining competitive at best and downright schizophrenic at worst. The Bucks looked primed to embrace the bad and let young players figure things out for themselves until the signings of Zaza Pachulia and O.J. Mayo and the trade for Caron Butler. However, the early events of this season appear to be forcing the team’s hand into what may end up being the most optimal outcome for this season—the “T” word. So far, Milwaukee has done a great job of … ahem … “favorably influencing” their chances in the 2014 draft lottery.
But once you dig past the question of intent, the Bucks’ roster shows promise for a relatively quick turnaround. The team has several promising young pieces (especially in the frontcourt) to complement last year’s breakout sensation, Larry Sanders. The big story, of course, is rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has drawn plenty of attention already. But John Henson is quietly developing into a useful post player as he earns more playing time, Ersan Ilyasova is already a skilled shooter at power forward, and the team elected to acquire Brandon Knight to lead a youth movement in the backcourt. All things considered, the Bucks have done a fine job of collecting a cast of supporting characters. The next step, then, is finding the “leading man.” That’s where a high draft pick in the 2014 NBA Draft plays a role.
Q #2: Two-part question, answer could be the same for both: a) Which Buck has disappointed the most this season? b) Whose contract would you gladly cut from Milwaukee right now (an exemption amnesty, if you will)?
@mitchvomhof: The obvious choice for most disappointing Buck to this point is Sanders. He was rewarded for last year’s breakout performance with a four-year, $44 million contract and promptly injured himself in an ill-advised, off-the-court altercation. Seeing the erstwhile “face of the franchise” rack up DNPs on the bench as he recovers from thumb surgery is certainly tough for all involved.
But I’m not ready to cut bait and get rid of him, as some have suggested. The contract that I would most like to remove is Caron Butler’s $8 million price tag this season. It’s not even THAT egregious because it is an expiring contract, but Butler’s production and value to the team have been largely replaced by the emergence of Khris Middleton as a worthwhile starting small forward. At this point, the cap space opened up by removing Butler’s contract would likely be better served as flexibility for the inevitable “salary dump” trades that the Bucks may take part in later this season to gather some more assets and ensure the best positioning in next year’s draft order.
Q #3: What are the Bucks doing right? Also, which Buck do you think will bounce back after the tough OT loss to the Wizards in Milwaukee back on Nov. 27?
@mitchvomhof: To be frank, they’re doing a fantastic job of tanking. The worst record in the NBA is an impressive accomplishment less than a season removed from a playoff berth.
Despite the overall disappointment of the season so far, coach Larry Drew has done a good job finding playing time for his young guys. Due in part to the absence of Sanders and a generally beat-up roster, players like Henson, Knight, and even Giannis have gotten plenty of time to showcase their skills and work on improving. It feels strange to be talking about the future when we’re less than a quarter of the way through the current season, but the Bucks have an opportunity to really step back and think about where they want to go from here instead of worrying about how to “win now,” as they have in recent years.
He didn’t necessarily play poorly in the first matchup against the Wizards, but Ersan Ilyasova has been warming up and seems primed to have a big game. He tests the range of a lot of opposing big men with his jump-shooting prowess, and I’m not convinced that either Nene or Marcin Gortat has the speed to effectively defend him all the way out to the 3-point line. Plus, Ersan has finally begun to look healthy after a long list of injuries slowed him in the early going. He’s coming off of a 22 point, 10 rebound effort against the Pistons and will be a key in spacing the floor against a bigger, stronger Wizards front line.
BONUS: Have you see the Larry Sanders Fight Club video? As far as I can tell, Sanders is wearing roller skates, all white, and skinny jeans. Please narrate.
Bucksketball editor Jeremy Schmidt provided an alternate angle to shed a bit more light on the scenario. I’ll let the tape speak for itself.
— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) December 4, 2013
Q #4: Will Washington be on their toes?
@Truth_About_It: That’s a good question, El Capi-tan. I’m going to make my usual semi-optimistic assumption and say yes, at home, the Wizards have finally turned a corner and will beat up on the beaten-down. On the road, the Wizards will understandably still be a work in progress. So, the Wizards giving 9.5 points to Milwaukee is quite a spread, which is why I’ll pessimistically predict that they won’t cover, but will say that Washington will secure the win, 105-98. Otherwise, let’s hear Randy Wittman talk some coachspeak after Wizards practice on Thursday about tonight’s game: